April 22, 2022 – Volume 21, Issue 16


What is the State of Preschool Now? 

The 2021 edition of The State of Preschool Yearbook will be released Tuesday, April 26. The report provides a 20-year perspective and explores the pandemic’s impact on the 2020-21 school year, the first to be fully impacted by the pandemic. It reports for the nation and each individual state progress–or setbacks–in preschool enrollment, spending, and policies to support quality. This report sets out the hard data behind the stories we’ve all heard about how COVID-19 highlighted and exacerbated long-standing problems for preschool education. The report also discusses how much it would cost to address key problems and discusses potential state and federal policy solutions. Visit here on Tuesday to find out:

  1. Did your state buck the trend and increase enrollment during the pandemic?
  2. Which states held preschool funding harmless or even increased?
  3. Which states are in reach of a universal program for 4-year-olds?
  4. How has state-funded preschool changed in two decades?
  5. What would it cost to reach all low-income families with high quality pre-K in your state and the nation?

A New Approach to Sustaining Pre-K Impacts: Leveraging Naturally Occurring Lotteries to Examine a District-Wide Rollout of Instructional Alignment Across Pre-K and Kindergarten

Many researchers, policymakers and practitioners have suggested vertical instructional alignment, or the alignment of standards, assessments and curricula from pre-K to elementary school, as a way to address the fade-out of skills gained in pre-K. In a new brief, a team of researchers explore the feasibility of using naturally occurring lotteries for pre-K slots to estimate the impact of Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) Focus on Early Learning, a vertical instructional alignment approach, concluding based on an assessment of school and district data that the lotteries will allow for causal conclusions.

“The implementation of Focus on Early Learning—coupled with the existence of naturally occurring lotteries for oversubscribed schools—presents an unprecedented opportunity to estimate the causal impacts of a district-wide rollout of instructional alignment across pre-K and kindergarten on students’ learning and development over time,” the researchers concluded. Read the entire brief, written by Meghan McCormick, Rebecca Unterman, Mirjana Pralica, Christina Weiland, Amanda Weissman, and Joann Hsueh, here.


Setting the Course for Sustainable PreK Systems: Lessons from Four States

Kate Hodges, Policy Research Project Coordinator at NIEER, co-presented a paper with Dr. Kaitlin Northey of the University of Vermont at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) on Thursday, April 21st. The paper session, entitled Understanding How Organizational Systems Shape Student Equity and Teacher Agency, featured their paper which uses data from a 2021 NIEER qualitative multi-case study, Effective State Offices of Early Learning: Structural Features, Enabling Conditions, and Key Functions in Four States. Findings illustrate characteristics that make state pre-K systems more sustainable, and suggest that while systems are context specific, there are some structures instrumental to their sustainability. Read the paper abstract here.                                                                                                     


Fostering Early Motivation: The Influence of Teacher-Child Relationships and Interactions on Motivation in the Kindergarten Classroom

Teacher-child relationships characterized by high levels of closeness in kindergarten are associated with positive motivation, whereas highly conflictual teacher-child relationships are associated with negative motivation, particularly for boys, researchers at the University of Virginia found.

The researchers used a sample of 2,745 kindergarteners from an ethnically and linguistically diverse county. They found motivation, as measured by children’s reports of school enjoyment, feelings toward the teacher, self-concept, and growth mindset, was not significantly related to the quality of teacher-child interactions.

The study was authored by Monica S. Lu, Jessica E. Whittaker, Erik Ruzek, Robert C. Pianta, and Virginia E. Vitiello of the University of Virginia, and can be read here.

Emotional Support Moderates Associations between Preschool Approaches to Learning and Academic Skills

Using data from a diverse sample of 301 Head Start children across 53 classrooms, researchers at the University of Miami found that while teacher emotional support did not relate directly to children’s academic skills, it did moderate the association between children’s attitudes to learning and literacy skills. Children’s attention and persistence were also positively associated with math and literacy skills.

“Our findings suggest when children are enrolled in classrooms characterized by respectful, warm, and supportive teacher-child interactions, there are benefits for children’s approaches to learning and academic skills,” the authors concluded.

The study was authored by Jenna N. Futterer, Rebecca J. Bulotsky-Shearer, and Rinatte L. Gruen. Read it here.

Exploring the Role of Teacher–Child Relationships in the Longitudinal Associations between Childhood Shyness and Social Functioning at School: A Prospective Cohort Study

Researchers found that while shyness in toddlerhood and early childhood is linked with social functioning difficulties in early childhood, early childhood and education care (ECEC) teachers may buffer this negative link. 

The researchers used data from 7,343 children from the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child (MoBa) study, finding “a pattern suggesting that early positive teacher–child relationships have a buffering influence on shy children’s risk for social difficulties.” Read the study, written by S. Baardstu, R. J. Coplan, E. Eliassen, R. E. Brandlistuen, and M. V. Wang here.

Cardiovascular Health at Age 5 Years: Distribution, Determinants, and Association with Neurodevelopment

Researchers found in a study of 566 French children that only one-third of 5-year-olds had ideal cardiovascular health (CVH). Higher biological CVH at age 5 was associated with higher IQ, and determinants of ideal CVH at age 5 included CVH at age 3 and limited time spent watching television at age 3. 

The researchers conclude that “the current findings support the clinical relevance of promoting higher CVH in early childhood by suggesting an association between CVH and optimal brain health.” The full study can be accessed here.

Estimates of a Multidimensional Index of Nurturing Care in the Next 1000 Days of Life for Children in Low-Income and Middle-Income Countries: A Modelling Study 

Researchers applied predictive modeling to generate nationally representative prevalence estimates of access to ten basic indicators of nurturing care for children 36 to 59 months old in 104 low-income and middle-income countries. They estimated that 62 million children in this age range (25%) received minimally adequate nurturing care, while 182 million were without adequate care. Access to care was highest for nutrition and lowest for early learning.  

The study was written by Dana Charles McCoy, Jonathan Seiden, Jorge Cuartas, Lauren Pisani, and Marcus Waldman. Read more here.